Review – Persona 4 Golden (Xbox Series S/X)
Discussing Persona games has always been a hot topic among the WTMG staff. We may actually house some of the very few people in this planet who just didn’t like Persona 5 that much, which has led to constant discussions with other members of the team. We’d always bring up that Persona 4 Golden, as dated and hard to legitimately own/play as it was, was simply more enjoyable than the adventures of Joker and his mates. We’d always wonder if that was part of some well-groomed nostalgia for the golden days of the Vita, or if the game was just that damn good. With the release of the Xbox version of it on Gamepass, I immediately started yet another run. And yep, I still stand by it. It may have its issues, but damn, how I love this game.
I don’t know what made me like Persona 4 Golden that much while considering Persona 5 to be just… okay. Maybe it was the fact it, unlike its predecessor and successor, was not aiming for an overly edgy take on the life of a Japanese high school student? Or was it the whole Scooby-Doo atmosphere that permeated the plot? I’m pretty sure that not having it being set in Tokyo like every single other teenage-centered JRPG in the business certainly made it stand out as well. The adventures of Yu Narukami and his mates resonated a lot more with me, be it in P4G or its fighting-centered sequel, Persona 4 Arena, than any other Atlus JRPG to date.
But I knew I was going to enjoy the setting once again. I have always liked these characters. Yu, Chie, Yosuke, Nanako, even Teddie’s atrocious bear puns. I was wondering if the mechanics of Persona 4 Golden would actually hold up in 2023, and not only that, if they would be enjoyable on a home console. Part of the appeal of playing Persona 4 Golden back in the day was the fact it was on a (severely underrated) portable. Being able to play it for a few in-game days, do what I had to do, and then turning it off, on-the-go. Would the game resonate well on an actual console? That was my concern, even more than it aging well or not.
Well, the pacing is, just like any other mainline Persona, all over the place. It takes a few literal hours before the actual RPG part of the game begins, but one thing I’ve noticed that Persona 4 Golden does really well when compared to its sequel is that it sprinkles little gameplay tidbits and explanations throughout this massively long intro before it lets you loose in the first dungeon. There’s no excessive handholding like in Persona 5: once you’re allowed to explore the first mainline dungeon, you and Yosuke already have a Persona of your own, and you’re simply told to not overwork. If you want to clear the entire dungeon in a day (like I did), you can. No cat telling you to go home and sleep before reaching the 7th floor.
That doesn’t mean that the actual dungeon crawling aspect aged well. For as much as I love Persona 4 Golden, it is an old game. It was originally released for the Playstation 2, and even then it wasn’t exactly pushing the technical boundaries of the system. Dungeons look repetitive as hell, being comprised of a single decor tile being randomly generated in front of you in a very underwhelming manner. The character models, well, they also don’t look that amazing. They weren’t impressive on the Vita’s small screen at all, so having them rendered in a big screen does them no favors either. Granted, the game now runs at a much sexier framerate, with no loading times as well, but the remastering efforts didn’t change it completely.
As for the rest, I have to say that Persona 4 Golden aged surprisingly well. Fusing Personas is really fun. Creating social links isn’t a harsh task, but the impeccable script makes these sections a joy to witness. Sidequests are simple, but enjoyable. There is so much to do in the rural town of Inaba, it just amazes me how Atlus managed to cram that much content in such a small map, not unlike what Ryu Ga Gotoku Studios does with the Yakuza games.
And there’s the soundtrack, of course. It’s time for some controversy… I actually think that, overall, Persona 4 Golden has the better soundtrack of all the games in the franchise. Hell, all Megami Tensei games in general. It’s not that I don’t like the soundtrack featured in Persona 5 (the victory theme is literally my favorite tune ever to play on a bass), but I think that the mixture of pop, punk, rap and electronic featured in this game just fits the whole teenage atmosphere much better than the impeccable, but too classy soundtrack from Persona 5. The battle theme, “Time to Make History“, is just perfect. Perfect. Everything, down to the last minute details.
If you were wondering if Persona 4 Golden would manage to stand the test of time, don’t worry, it did. Playing it on a console is still as fun as it was on the PS Vita. Even if its visuals aged like curded milk, and the dungeon crawling segments aren’t that engaging, the rest of the game is just too damn entertaining to complain about. The music, the characters, the setting, the fusing system, the fast-paced combat, the utterly fantastic plot… Persona 4 Golden is just great. It was great, it is great now, and it will forever be considered one of the best JRPGs in the business. No matter where you decide to play it, just go for it, sensei.
Even if the character portraits and anime cutscenes still look fantastic, there’s no denying: Persona 4 Golden did not age gracefully in the graphics department. I do appreciate the 60fps performance, though.
Even if the social simulation aspect is intuitive, and the combat system is fast-paced and entertaining, the dungeon crawling aspect of it just didn’t age as well as I used to think.
The voice acting is excellent, and I do believe that the soundtrack is even better than the one from Persona 5. Bring in the pitchforks.
Fun Factor: 9.0
Is it slow-paced as hell at first? Yes. Does it take an eternity for things to get going? Also yes. Does it become a truly engaing and addictive JRPG from then on? Absolutely.
Final Verdict: 8.5
Persona 4 Golden is available now on PS4, PS5, PS Vita, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC and Switch. The original version of Persona 4 is available on PS2.
Reviewed on Xbox Series S.